Price signalling and conferences

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In the comments, Hovav Shacham writes:
This may be tangential, but what I find weird about RSA is how much higher the entry price is than comparable conferences (including those conferences where you would send your poly-time factorization papers). I suppose the presence of John's type-b people [people willing to pay $2K to get in--EKR] above might justify it ..

As John Kelsey points out, a lot of the value in attending a conference like RSA is getting to network with other people attending it. And at some intuitive level it seems likely that people willing to pay $2K to attend would be the kind of people who you would want to meet, market yourself too, etc. The higher the price of the conference, the better prospects the other attendees will be and the more you might be willing to pay to attend yourself. So, the optimal price is very subject to network effects, which may be why it's so high even though the actual quality of the talks is so low.

What's really weird about RSA, though, is that as John points out, an expo pass is only $50 ($75 on the day of the conference), and you get to meet all the same people in the hallway. And it's so common for people to get expo passes that it doesn't decrease your credibility to have one. So, at the end of the day the high price remains a bit of a mystery.